If you were to stumble upon your blog or website for the first time today, what would be your first impression? How would your content move you? Would you even like it?
How different would this introduction be to a first encounter with a stranger? As with any introduction to a personality or, in the case of your website, an identity or brand, a few basic principles of “winning” behaviors apply if you want to make a good first impression. These behaviors are spelled out in the acclaimed self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
First published in 1934, and then republished in 1981, Carnegie’s How To book has sold at least 15 million copies worldwide and is universally respected as a premier guide to maximizing one’s interpersonal relationships. The book makes several promises, including the ability to increase one’s popularity, win others to one’s point of view, and to make friends quickly and easily.
In order to be successful, your content must excel in all of these areas as well. So what can you, as a content creator, learn from Dale Carnegie’s book?
How Carnegie’s Book Translates to Writing Effective Content
As content creators, we are the authors of our brands’ identity, voice, and personality. It is our job to make our content win the loyalty of our readers and influence their ways of thinking, including, ultimately, their decision to buy into our message, products, or services. To do this, we need to create content that effectively “wins friends and influences people.”
Carnegie’s book is broken up into sections that include “Fundamental Techniques in Handling People,” “Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking,” and “Six Ways to Make People Like You.”
Focusing on the “Six Ways to Make People Like You” section, we’re going to breakdown the six ways your content can make your readers like your brand.
Six Ways Your Content Can Make People Like Your Brand
First, the six ways that Carnegie spells out in his book are:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
- Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.
One: Cultivate Genuine Interest
How interested are you really in the needs of your readers and potential clientele? You should be very interested. Understanding and appreciating those needs is necessary to converting those leads into sales. Yet it is certainly difficult to have genuine interest in people you’ve never met before. When you’re creating content while facing a lifeless computer screen, it’s hard to imagine the person on the other side of it, what moves them and resonates with their unique set of experiences.
So use your imagination. You’re a creative type, right? Create a customer profile that answers the following questions:
- What keeps your reader/customer up at night?
- What obstacles do they encounter on a regular basis?
- Do they have a built in bias to the way they make decisions?
- How experienced is your customer in your field?
Go a step further and find a picture of what you imagine your ideal customer to look like. Paste it to the wall next to your computer screen and write to that person. Understand their needs and generate topics, text, graphics, and videos that speak directly to those needs.
Two: How Friendly is Your Voice?
When you meet someone new, you can instinctually pick up on their moods simply by reading their body language and facial expressions, and by recognizing subtleties in their tone. While a reader doesn’t have your physical presence to give them clues about your mood, it is certainly perceptible in the tone of your text.
What is the voice of your brand? Haughty and aloof? Or approachable and engaging? Your word choice, writing style, sense of humor—all of these things will determine how your mood and voice are received by your readers. Ask for input from unbiased parties. Have them read a blog post or watch a video you’ve created, and ask them their impression. What feelings do they get while reading or watching? What do they imagine you’re feeling? How likeable and/or approachable are you?
This type of input is invaluable as you’re trying to create a brand that appeals to your audience. Everyone loves a smile, and your content should give the impression of doing exactly that.
Three: Address Your Commenters by Name
When you receive comments on your posts or videos, personalize your responses. Even click on the link to their site. Spend a minute understanding who they are, what might have prompted their comment, and respond directly to what they’ve said, whether it was a question or statement. Thank them for their contribution, addressing them by name, and provide a thoughtful insight of your own if applicable to show your appreciation for the time they’ve taken to engage with you.
Our own names truly are our most important sounds/possessions. Take advantage of this fact by using their names in your correspondence with them, but don’t abuse it! No one likes to hear their name taken in vain!
Four: Invite Readers to Respond
At the conclusion of every content piece, there should be call to action that invites the reader to internalize your message and then respond to it. Ask for feedback. Even ask for argument.
- Do they disagree with your assertions? If they do, you should want to know why.
- Do they agree?
- Do they have something to add that you may have left out?
As the content creator, you’ve had the floor for as long as it took the reader to consume your content. Now it’s your turn to listen and theirs to respond. Encourage your readers to talk about themselves. You are, after all, fundamentally interested in what they have to say (remember number one?).
Five: Speak to Their Interests
This goes hand-in-hand with number one: understanding and taking interest in your readers. When it comes to finding services that provide solutions to their problems, all of your prospective customers and readers have five benefits in mind, even if they don’t know it yet themselves. They’re looking for services or products that will:
- Save them time and money.
- Make them look good to others.
- Make them feel good physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Protect them and their interests.
- Alleviate their pain or discomfort.
Your content must convince your readers that your message, product, or service does one, some, or all of these things for them. Do this, and then deliver, and your customers will love you for it.
Six: Be Sincere
Your sincerity, or lack of, will be made evident in how well you understand your readers, how thoroughly you respond to comments, how friendly your tone of voice is, and how interested you are in solving their problems. Content that misses the mark or fails to address the interests of your target audience will be seen as a lack of sincerity and your readers will move on.
Follow these proven tips to winning friends and influencing people as you write your content and you’ll begin to make real and profitable connections for your blog and business.
What have you found to be the most effective techniques and practices as you’ve cultivated relationships with your followers? Share what works for you in the comments!
Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People: Revised Edition. New York: Pocket Books, 1981. (January 22, 2015.)